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“A Game Changer”: A Look Inside the Plans for Hospital Hill 

People look at tables
Community members and officials attended an open house for the new Hospital Hill intersection on Monday, February 26. (Photo by Kelly Prinz)

Safer intersections, more crosswalks, wider sidewalks, and additional parking for businesses are some of the planned improvements for the Hospital Hill area of Norwalk.

Residents, business owners, and members of the public had a chance to take a close-up look at the proposed improvements on Monday at an open house at Norwalk Hospital. Members of the city’s Transportation, Mobility, and Parking (TMP) department, as well as consultants for the project, were on hand to gather feedback and answer questions.

Garrett Bolella, the city’s assistant director of TMP, said the department decided to apply for a Community Connectivity grant for the project after analyzing the crash data for the intersection, which brings together Stevens Street, Stuart Avenue, Magnolia Avenue, and Phillips Street in a quasi-traffic circle. The city received an $800,000 grant from the program to help address what Bolella called “a misunderstood intersection.”

“We thought this intersection fit perfectly. It had a history of crashes,” he said. “We actually had a number of different pedestrian crashes—three [pedestrian] crashes is a pretty big number for the amount of vehicles that are entering this intersection–and then we also have a history of parking-related crashes and crashes just related to confusion.”

A look at the proposed plans for the intersection. (Photo by Kelly Prinz)

In addition, Bolella said, a desire for improvements to the area had been mentioned in a few city plans.

“How can we make a beautiful village here?” he said. “This is one of the few areas in this district that has concentrated commercial, so the idea was to make a really quaint village, create a gateway to this community.” 

For business owners in the area, the city’s plans are a welcome change.

“All the suggestions that the city’s made and come up with—I’m really excited,” said Victor Amereno, the owner of Blue Cactus Grill, which is located at the intersection. “I really feel like it’s a game-changer. I suspect it’s going to become a destination.” 

Jimmy Panagiotidis, who owns the building on the corner and the local bodega, said he believed the proposed changes would enhance the whole area.

“I’m excited that it’s going to beautify the whole neighborhood,” he said. “It’s going to make easier access for everybody to just access that whole intersection and it’s going to give us parking, because we need more parking. One of the biggest things is the safety—it’s going to be a lot safer.” 

Jim Travers, the city’s director of TMP, said he was really happy to see the community engaged with this project. 

“They’re really excited about investments being made locally in their community,” he said. “This is exactly what community connectivity grants are supposed to do. They’re supposed to be small projects that create sustainable change that impact(s) economic development, that create community.” 

A Look Inside the Plans

Bolella said they met with multiple stakeholders including area residents and business owners, and have a preliminary proposal that’s “really conventional intersection design.” 

“Consistent, really simple design—T intersections, intersections at right angles work really well,” he said. “This design was also able to not only create consistency for vehicles, through this design we can also create a lot of crossings [for pedestrians.] There’s really no pedestrian crossings out there today.” 

Bolella said this will help support the “economic development and the businesses” in the area, something that Amereno agreed with. 

Amereno said a lot of his business comes from people on I-95, who stop to grab something to eat, but right now there’s not a lot of room for them to eat on site. He also noted that because of limited parking, if there’s not a space available, some potential customers will just drive to the next business. That’s why he said that he appreciates the benches the city is looking to add along with additional parking. 

The plans include parallel parking along the streets, a small parking lot, street trees, pedestrian-level lighting plans, additional green infrastructure, trash cans, and benches. Those in attendance could weigh in on their favorite designs for each, such as labeling the type of crosswalk they preferred or the design of light structure they liked best. 

In addition to the work the city is doing in the region, Bolella and Travers noted that Norwalk Hospital is also investing in the area, with a new building along Stevens Street, which will replace the hospital’s Community and Tracey Pavilions while “modernizing inpatient care.” As a part of that project, the hospital is going to be improving the roadway as well, with new sidewalks, crosswalks, lighting, and more. 

“I think at the end of the day, it will be really neat that Stevens Street will have a completely different character,” Bolella said. 

Bolella said they are working to get the project 100% designed by the end of summer and put it out for construction bids in the early fall, as there’s “a lot of elements of the project that can be done over the winter.” 

Comments

One response to ““A Game Changer”: A Look Inside the Plans for Hospital Hill ”

  1. Great work TMP and City of Norwalk – this is great stuff and ought to be a model for other areas around Town.

    The combination of more crosswalks, safer intersections and wider sidewalks is exactly what this kind of mixed-use / micro-community needs to flourish. I used to own a 2-Family on Woodbury and thought the Neighborhood had great potential but kinda gave up on the idea that an investment in this kind of critical infrastructure would ever be made. I was wrong. Let’s do more of it !

    Brad Craighead
    Norwalk Green Association

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